Concert Review

Dallas Morning News Dallas, TX October 20, 2012

PLANO — Pity the poor musicians who’ll be reviewed in the weeks after Saturday night’s concert. Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, cellist Bion Tsang and pianist Anton Nel set a standard of technical brilliance and sophisticated expressivity rarely encountered anywhere.

It’s too bad the concert, presented by the Asian American Chamber Music Society at St. Andrew United Methodist Church, wasn’t better publicized. (I learned about it from Nel’s posting on Facebook.) It would have gotten a rave review at Carnegie Hall.

All three musicians have significant concert careers, Meyers’ the highest-profile. Tsang and Nel are both on the music faculty of the University of Texas at Austin.

Singly, in pairs and all together, they made the music seem a living, breathing organism. Tension and release were suavely managed, as were interplays between players. In an age plagued by so much overplaying, nothing was ever forced; nuances of piano and pianissimo ravished the ear.

Nel, the only musician who played every work, opened with a solo piece: Granados’ Allegro de concierto, served up with apparently effortless virtuosity but also generous rubato where called for. Then he and Tsang made a riveting case for Britten’s C major Sonata for cello and piano.

Composed for the late Mstislav Rostropovich, this comprises five movements of amazing invention. In the opening “Dialogo,” two-note motifs eventually spin out scales. Succeeding movements explore pizzicato chatters, high cello keenings over pounding piano chords, hushed arpeggios against piano tinklings, glissandos and a final fury of bow bouncings.

Playing with a tone of silken beauty, Tsang made some very challenging music sound utterly natural; Nel seemed to have limitless reserves of dynamics and color. Both evinced exquisite sensitivity to timing, pivotal notes placed just so.

Meyers and Nel brought out every possible nuance in the Ravel Violin Sonata: mysterious interplays, sultry blues, virtuoso skitterings. Soulful moments in the first movement were breathtakingly beautiful.

Meyers’ tone was so big and brilliant that in the Anton Arensky Piano Trio I feared for balances with Tsang’s subtle and refined sound. But adjustments were made, and it’s hard to imagine a more accomplished or more emotionally generous performance of this classic of high-humidity, heavy-breathing late romanticism.

A richly deserved standing ovation was rewarded with a dreamy Astor Piazzola Oblivion.

Wow. What a concert.

By Scott Cantrell

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